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RFAs, the Series: Justin Holl and Martin Marincin

Over the last couple days, I’ve gotten partway into my annual series of predicting RFA contracts. Here’s the “kick-off” post to explain the concept, and collect some predictions as well. Feel free to head over there to chime in for your predictions as well, and to get an idea of the format here.

To start – here’s the last post on William Nylander in case you missed that.

Today, we’re going to look at the contracts of two mostly-Marlies defensemen: Justin Holl and Martin Marincin.

The Players

Justin Holl

Holl has been a rock for the Marlies for the last 3 years. Similar to Marincin, he was also a second round pick that was let go by his original team, the Chicago Blackhawks, also in 2015. In contrast, Holl never made the NHL for the Hawks, and was let walk without a qualifying offer. The Marlies, run by now-Leafs-GM Kyle Dubas, picked up Holl on an AHL contract and he has been a dependable player for them ever since.

Holl got his first crack at the NHL this season when the Leafs were hit with a rash of injuries on the right side of their defense. He surprisingly scored 2 goals in 2 games (he’s not exactly known for scoring, even in the AHL) which finally put him in the spotlight for many Leafs fans.

Martin Marincin

The Edmonton Oilers first brought Marincin into the league in 2013-14. He was a second round draft pick for them in 2010. The Leafs brought Martin Marincin into the fold in 2015 offseason. It was essentially a 3-way trade, where Toronto got Marincin, Edmonton got Eric Gryba, and Ottawa got the 4th round pick (originally Pittsburgh’s pick) from Toronto, which became present-day Ottawa depth defenseman Christian Wolanin. This was also a move made when the now-GM for the Maple Leafs, Kyle Dubas, was co-GMing the team with Mark Hunter before the hiring of Lou Lamiorello.

Marincin has been a hot topic for teams for a long time now. It was from day one with the Oilers, and it still is now for the Maple Leafs. The more statistics-inclined crowd, including myself, have always suggested that he’s a decent-to-good NHL player. However, the visual results have always been in direct contrast. This is similar to the way Jake Gardiner is sometimes perceived in Leaf Land, but for Marincin it’s a bit different since even his biggest supporters only think of him as a number 5 or 6 defenseman in the NHL.

In the AHL, however, it’s obvious Marincin is top pair calibre relative to that league. The Leafs sent Marincin to the minors at the start of camp, and he came up for a two-game stretch before Babcock was promptly reminded why he doesn’t like Marincin. Since, the lanky defenseman has been steadily playing top pair for the Marlies, looking confident, and producing respectably.

 

The two are actually playing together on a pairing for the Marlies currently in the playoffs, and have been very solid. They’ve been linked together since March.

The Numbers

With 20 points in 52 games for the Marlies, Marincin has been a decent offensive threat. The same goes for Holl, who has 28 points in 60 games. Holl actually finished 6th in the league in points per game at 5-on-5 of defensemen with 20 games in the AHL. Marincin was 23rd, of a total of 239 (the aforementioned Eric Gryba was actually last with 0 points in 24 games).

The AHL doesn’t track shot attempts, or even shots, in terms of on-ice statistics, so unfortunately the best we have is goal-based numbers. It’s hard to count on Goals statistics because there’s so much less Goal data than there is shot data. There can be some interesting things to find, and there’s one such tidbit for Marincin and Holl. They both have strong GF% (Goals For percentages, essentially +/- but expressed as a percentage and a little tighter rules on which goals count), with 68.75 and 59.77 respectively. However, their relative numbers (comparing what the GF% is when they’re on the ice vs. what it is when they’re off) are very different, more than just the 7% gap in the actual difference between them. Marincin has a +11.83% (very good) while Holl’s is -0.23% (average). Essentially, the team has a better goal ratio when Marincin is on the ice, whereas the team is very similar whether Holl is on or off.

To illustrate how unreliable this is, Holl was relatively very bad (about -8%) in 2016-17, and relatively pretty good (+5%) in 2015-16. Take this with many grains of salt.

All of these stats are from the wonderful resource, prospect-stats.com.

The Money

Justin Holl

For Holl, the story is different. As mentioned above, he was brought in by the person who is now running the show for the Maple Leafs, Kyle Dubas. The rumblings have been that Holl is a favourite of Dubas and the analytics team, and they feel very strongly that he’s worthy of a depth role with the Leafs.

He has been signing 1 year NHL contracts with the Leafs for the last two years, and I don’t expect that trend to change. Especially not now, coming off the first season where the Leafs actually had an opportunity to utilize Holl in the NHL. Currently, his contract is worth $650k. Here’s some guesses at the numbers, using his history as the only real comparable:

Optimistic: $650k for 1 year, two way deal

Realistic: $675k for 1 year, two way deal

Pessimistic: $800k for 1 year, two way deal

Given his status as a nearly perennial Marlie now, I don’t think he’ll stray out of two way contract status into the one way deal (where he’d get paid the same salary no matter what league he’s in). MLSE is a very rich company, but saving a few hundred thousand dollars by giving Holl an AHL salary is probably still on their radar.

The term is obviously set by his history and the role he plays. As a depth player, there’s not much leverage here to press for a longer deal.

As for the dollars, realistically, the salary will go up a little bit as a representation of the cap going up, but it’s still possible that he gets the exact same contract, at league minimum salary. With the tumultuous cap situation the Leafs could be in with regards to performance bonuses, every cent may count.

Martin Marincin

Marincin’s current contract is a $2.5M deal over 2 years, which has a cap hit of $1.25M. For anyone wondering, no, this wasn’t signed while Dubas was running the show on his own. This deal began under Lamiorello’s tenure.

For Marincin, there’s little to say about what his contract may be. I think there’s a very strong chance we don’t see him return to the Leafs next season. The Leafs have a few defensemen coming up the ranks. Keaton Middleton, Nicolas Mattinen, and Jesper Lindgren may all join the team next year, to add to the already large group of Marlies-quality defenseman within the Leafs organization.

I personally value Marincin more than most, and would be happy to have him on the depth chart behind Dermott, among where Borgman and Rosen sit, but I don’t believe the Leafs will go that route.

For some actual guesses, here’s what I’ll go with:

Optimistic: $1M for 1 year, two way contract

Realistic: No contract

Pessimistic: AHL contract for 1 year

I’m calling the AHL contract a pessimistic option because, really, what’s the point of having Marincin around taking up ice time with the Marlies if he’s not a recall option for the Leafs? I don’t see any. I am leaning very hard towards the realistic option here. So much so it almost seems pointless to put the other two up there.

Realistically, as I lead into above, there’s very little chance that Marincin returns.

Conclusion

Well that sums it up there. No coming back for Martin Marincin, and back on the same grind for Justin Holl, are my predictions. What do you think? Do you want Holl back? Would you, like me, be interested in bringing Marincin back? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Otherwise, keep an eye out for the next post, where we’ll look at the newest kid on the scene for the Leafs NHL roster, Andreas Johnsson.

 

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